This Man Tracked his Sneezes for Five Years and Fixed his Pollen Allergy

What a little bit of data about health can do

man sneezing
H. Armstrong Roberts/CORBIS

If allergies prove to be too much to handle, all one needs to do is track every step, every sneeze and exposure for five years, accumulate about 100,000 data points and then use that knowledge to end the torment. At least, that’s what Thomas Blomseth Christiansen did to rid himself of his pollen allergy, reports Akshat Rathi for Quartz

Rathi reports that Christiansen, a software programmer, developed an app to track his health data. The quest to understand the human body and health by collecting basic habits and activities such as sleep, diet and yes, sneezes, is part of a larger movement called Quantified Self. Smartphones are key to the effort. With the app, Rathi writes:

Christiansen was tracking food, sleep, drinks, sneezes, supplements, tiredness level, waistline size, and more. His hope was that the data would enable him to do experiments and see whether any modification to his lifestyle would help improve his health.

At first, the programmer wasn’t sure exactly what caused his pollen allergy, but the tracking revealed that sneezing ramped up in the summer. Christiansen was also able to figure out that certain foods and drinks made the sneezing worse.

Led by the data he gathered, Christiansen made a number of changes that Rathi reports, including moving to a new apartment and drinking enough water to stay hydrated.

“I am now asymptomatic,” Christiansen told Rathi. “This summer, for the first time in my life, I cut grass at my parents’ cabin and I did not sneeze even once. My system’s tolerance for pollen has gone up so dramatically that I’m able to do things that couldn’t dream of.”

This makes sense — most immunologists suspect that allergies are a kind of byproduct of an immune system in overdrive. Instead of only targeting bad bacteria, the body starts attacking normally harmless material, such as pollen grains. 

Now, what worked for Christiansen may not work for another person. Experts suggest seeing a doctor if allergies are constant or unbearable. But if you have the time an patience, tracking could work too.  

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